From “Fuck Tha Police” to playing a cop. How have your attitudes to the police changed since your NWA days?
They’re pretty much the same. I don’t like bad cops, I don’t like abusive cops. I definitely don’t like crooked cops. I like cops that do their job, that care, that give a damn. Those views haven’t changed. Playing a cop is kind of cool. As a youth, I played cops and robbers; it’s pretty much the same thing but on a bigger level.
Straight Outta Compton was one of the first records to have a parental advisory sticker. Is there anything you don’t let your kids listen to?
I let them listen to everything, as long as I’m right there with them. It’s better for you to introduce that stuff to them than for them to get it from their friends.
Did rap play out how the Ice Cube of 1987 would have expected it to?
No. I think the biggest double-edged sword for rap music has been the internet. In one way, it’s let artists become independent to the point where they can promote themselves. But it’s hurt the music because people think it’s free now. You have a generation who don’t know what it is to buy a CD or a record. That’s kinda whack.
What about in terms of big-money endorsements? Your Coke and Nike tie-ins. Rap used to be anti-system.
Rap has always been down with whoever is down with it. Back in the day, Run-DMC advertised Adidas. We shouldn’t be anti-everything, we should be anti-whack, anti-bulls**t, but not anti-cool.
Are the kids still angry?
Yeah. I definitely think it’s out there. When I first started, kids didn’t have a whole bunch of ways to express themselves so they did it through the music: “This is the kind of music I like, this is the kind of group I’m with and y’all know who I am”. But I think now, with social media, people don’t feel anonymous. They don’t feel like they’re not getting heard. If you look on those sites, you’ll see what people are angry about, what they’re pissed off about. The anger is just redirected.
And what makes you angry now?
The same things. My position in life has changed a lot from how I grew up. But my feelings haven’t and I’m not the kind of person who feels like “Yo, I made it, everything’s cool, the world is great”. Now, I feel more that I can be a voice for the voiceless, or I can talk about things that fuck me off. People are like “Cube, you’re not going through that,” but my people are, my relatives are.
The FBI wrote to NWA in the Eighties saying they took exception to Straight Outta Compton. Did you write back?
No! We actually never took that letter serious. We were too young and naïve. In ’89, the FBI was something you saw on TV. We weren’t really thinking about the FBI; we were thinking about LAPD, about the LA sheriffs, about the police who were really gonna come and fuck us up. If we’d have got a letter from them, we’d probably have taken it more serious.
If your son came to you and said “Dad, I want to be a cop,” what would you say?
I would try to talk him out of it. My thing is, “You want to get shot, or you want to see somebody get shot?”, because that’s what’s gonna happen. I take my hat off to police officers. Somebody who has the wherewithal to go into crime scenes and see some of the worst parts of human life. To see people wounded and hurt and victims every day, that would drive me a little crazy.
Ice Cube, real name O’Shea Jackson, grew up in the South Central area of Los Angeles. He was a founding member of NWA, along with Dr Dre. The group received international acclaim for their 1988 album, ‘Straight Outta Compton’. A forthcoming NWA biopic will see his son O’Shea Jr playing his father. Ice Cube’s new police action film, ‘Ride Along’, is released on Bluray and DVD on Monday